United States presidential transition

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United States presidential transition is the transfer of federal executive branch power from the incumbent President of the United States to the president-elect, during the period of time between election day in November (on the first Tuesday after November 1), and inauguration day on the following January 20. At its heart, a single step—taking the presidential oath of office—accomplishes this transfer. However, a successful transition between the outgoing, or "lame duck" administration and the incoming administration begins with pre-election planning and continues through inauguration day. It involves key personnel from the outgoing and incoming presidents’ staffs, requires resources, and includes a host of activities, such as vetting candidates for positions in the new administration, helping to familiarize the incoming administration with the operations of the executive branch, and developing a comprehensive policy platform.[1]

Presidential transitions have existed in one form or another since 1797, when George Washington handed over the presidency to John Adams. Some have gone smoothly, many have been bumpy and a few verged on catastrophic.[2] Formal mechanisms to facilitate them were first enshrined in law in the Presidential Transitions Act of 1963.[3] They are one of the least public but most important parts of any presidential election. With only 72 to 78 days between election day and inauguration day, good governance experts and recent federal officials have been pushing for candidates to start planning a potential administration earlier and earlier in the election calendar.[4] The most recent transition was the transition from the Obama administration to the Trump administration, which concluded on January 20, 2017, with the swearing in of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States.

Process[edit]

For much of American history, presidential transitions were carried out without very much advance planning or even cooperation from the sitting chief executive. A president-elect was not expected to come to the nation’s capital until the inauguration and had few if any substantial policy or procedural discussions with the outgoing administration. President Harry Truman charted a positive course by extending his hand to President-elect Dwight D. Eisenhower after the 1952 election, inviting him to the White House and ordering federal agencies to assist the new administration with the transition. John F. Kennedy funded his own (1960-61) transition just like his predecessors, and engaged in extensive transition planning on domestic and foreign policy issues, but did not meet with Eisenhower until January 6, 1961, two months after the election.[5]

The Presidential Transition Act of 1963 Pub.L. 88–277, as amended (by the Presidential Transitions Effectiveness Act of 1998 Pub.L. 100–398, Presidential Transition Act of 2000 Pub.L. 106–293, and Presidential Transitions Improvements Act of 2015 Pub.L. 114–136), established formal mechanisms to facilitate presidential transitions. Specifically, the act directs the Administrator of General Services to provide facilities, funding of approximately five million dollars, access to government services, and support for a transition team, and to provide training and orientation of new government personnel and other procedures to ensure an orderly transition.[1]

The transition process begins as leading presidential contenders begin making preliminary plans for building an administration and assuming the presidency should they be elected. Candidate Mitt Romney established a transition team in June 2012 (after some preparatory work in April and May), which was before he became the Republican Party nominee. Barack Obama followed a similar timeline for establishing his transition team in 2008. During the most recent presidential election cycle, in 2016, Donald Trump began assembling his transition team in May, after he became the presumptive Republican nominee. His fall campaign opponent, Hillary Clinton, lagged behind in this regard, not forming a transition team until August, which was after she became the Democratic Party nominee.[6] Key activities in this pre-election phase include: setting goals for the transition; assembling and organizing the key transition team staff; allocating responsibilities among the team and allocating resources and personnel for each core work stream; developing an overall management work plan to guide the team through the entire transition process; and establishing relationships with Congress, the outgoing administration, General Services Administration, the Office of Government Ethics, the FBI and the Office of Personnel Management to encourage information sharing and to begin the security clearance process for select personnel.[7]

The actual transition phase begins immediately following the presidential election (barring any electoral disputes) when a sitting president is not re-elected or is concluding a second term, as election day marks the beginning of the end of their presidency. On the day after the most recent election, November 9, 2016, outgoing president Barack Obama made a statement from the Rose Garden of the White House in which he announced that he had spoken, the previous evening, with (apparent election winner) Donald Trump and formally invited him to the White House for discussions to ensure "that there is a successful transition between our presidencies". Obama said he had instructed his staff to "follow the example" of the George W. Bush administration in 2008, whom he said could "not have been more professional or more gracious in making sure we had a smooth transition".[8] This phase of the process lasts between 72 and 78 days, ending on the inauguration day. During this time, the transition team must handle the influx of campaign staff and additional personnel into daily operations and prepare to take over the functions of government. Key activities in this phase include staffing the office of the president-elect; deploying agency review teams; building out the president-elect’s management and policy agendas and schedule; and identifying the key talent necessary to execute the new president’s priorities.[7]

Noteworthy presidential transitions[edit]

Perhaps the most notable transition in US history was the 1860–1861 transition from the administration of James Buchanan to the terms of Abraham Lincoln. Buchanan held the opinion that states did not have the right to secede, but that it was also illegal for the Federal government to go to war to stop them. Between the election on November 6, 1860 and inauguration on March 4, 1861, seven states seceded and conflict between secessionist and federal forces began, leading to the American Civil War between the Northern and Southern states.

In the 1876 election, disputes over 20 electoral votes in four states, along with numerous claims of vote fraud, sparked an intense political battle and effectively invalidated the election. This constitutional crisis was resolved only 2 days before the scheduled inauguration, through the so-called Compromise of 1877.

President Hoover and President–elect Roosevelt riding together to the United States Capitol prior to the March 4, 1933 presidential inauguration.

The 146 day–long presidential transition period (November 8, 1932 to March 4, 1933) at the end of Herbert Hoover's presidency, prior to the start of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, was also a difficult transition period. After the election, Roosevelt refused Hoover's requests for a meeting to come up with a joint program to stop the downward spiral and calm investors, claiming it would tie his hands, and as this "guaranteed that Roosevelt took the oath of office amid such an atmosphere of crisis that Hoover had become the most hated man in America".[9] During this period of essentially leaderless government, the U.S. economy ground to a halt as thousands of banks failed.[10] The relationship between Hoover and Roosevelt was one of the most strained between Presidents. While Hoover had little good to say about his successor, there was little he could do. FDR, however, supposedly could and did engage in various petty official acts aimed at his predecessor, ranging from dropping him from the White House birthday greetings message list to having Hoover's name struck from the Hoover Dam along the Colorado River border, which would officially be known only as Boulder Dam until 1947.

The transition between Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, was shortened by several weeks due to the Florida recount crisis that was only ended after the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Bush v. Gore, which made Bush the president-elect.

On a more petty level, it was marred by accusations of "damage, theft, vandalism and pranks". The General Accounting Office (GAO) estimated the cost of those pranks at $13,000 to $14,000. They included graffiti in the men's bathroom at the White House, glue smeared on desk drawers, and missing doorknobs, medallions, and office signs. However, they note that similar pranks were reported in prior transitions, including the one from Bush's father to Clinton in 1993.[11] Press secretary Ari Fleischer followed up the GAO report with a White House-produced list of alleged vandalism including removal of the W key from keyboards.[12] The Clintons were also accused of keeping for themselves gifts meant for the White House.[13] The Clintons denied the accusations, but agreed to pay more than $85,000 for gifts given to the first family "to eliminate even the slightest question" of impropriety.[14]

The transition between Bush and Barack Obama was considered seamless, with Bush granting Obama's request to ask Congress to release $350 billion of bank bailout funds.[15] At the start of his inaugural speech, Obama praised Bush "for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and co-operation he has shown throughout this transition".[16] The White House website was redesigned and “cut over” at exactly 12:01pm, January 20, 2009. This was described by some as a "new inaugural tradition spawned by the Internet-age".[17] Additionally, the information system was provided to the Obama administration without a single electronic record from the previous administration. Not only were emails and photos removed from the environment at the 12:01pm threshold, data elements like phone numbers of individual offices and upcoming meetings for the senior staff were also removed.[citation needed] Nonetheless, by April 2012, the Bush administration had transferred electronic records for the presidential components within the Executive Office of the President to the NARA. Included in these records was more than 80 terabytes of data, more than 200 million emails and 4 million photos.[18]

Obama-Trump transition[edit]

Trump presidential transition website, launched on the evening of November 9, 2016.

On November 9, 2016, the day after the presidential election, the Trump transition team announced that a transition website—greatagain.gov—had been launched. The website provided information on transition procedures and information for the media.[19] The website was later criticized for reposting content originally created by the Partnership for Public Service, however, Partnership CEO Max Stier declined to criticize the use and noted that the organization had been working with the major campaigns on transition planning, explaining that he hoped the group's materials would be "a resource that is used for the betterment of transitions".[20] Content on the transition website was licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.[21]

The team was led by Vice President-elect Mike Pence. It has six vice-chairs, including former transition head Chris Christie, Ben Carson, Newt Gingrich, Michael Flynn, Rudy Giuliani and Jeff Sessions.[22]

List of presidential transitions[edit]

The first transfer of federal executive branch power from an incumbent president to a president-elect was the Washington–Adams transition following the 1796 election. The most recent was the Obama–Trump transition following the 2016 election.

  Unaffiliated  Federalist  Democratic-Republican
  Democratic  Whig  Republican  National Union
Outgoing president
(Party)
Incoming president
(Party)
Transition began
following
Transition concluded
with
George Washington
(Unaffiliated)
John Adams
(Federalist)
Election of 1796 Inauguration of John Adams,
March 4, 1797
John Adams
(Federalist)
Thomas Jefferson
(Democratic-Republican)
Contingent election of 1801
February 17, 1801
First inauguration of Thomas Jefferson,
March 4, 1801
Thomas Jefferson
(Democratic-Republican)
James Madison
(Democratic-Republican)
Election of 1808 First inauguration of James Madison,
March 4, 1809
James Madison
(Democratic-Republican)
James Monroe
(Democratic-Republican)
Election of 1816 First inauguration of James Monroe,
March 4, 1817
James Monroe
(Democratic-Republican)
John Quincy Adams
(Democratic-Republican)
Contingent election of 1825
February 9, 1825
Inauguration of John Quincy Adams,
March 4, 1825
John Quincy Adams
(Democratic-Republican)
Andrew Jackson
(Democratic)
Election of 1828 First inauguration of Andrew Jackson,
March 4, 1829
Andrew Jackson
(Democratic)
Martin Van Buren
(Democratic)
Election of 1836 Inauguration of Martin Van Buren,
March 4, 1837
Martin Van Buren
(Democratic)
William Henry Harrison
(Whig)
Election of 1840 Inauguration of William Henry Harrison,
March 4, 1841
William Henry Harrison
(Whig)
John Tyler
(Whig)
Death of William Henry Harrison,
April 4, 1841
Inauguration of John Tyler,
April 6, 1841
John Tyler
(Unaffiliated)
James K. Polk
(Democratic)
Election of 1844 Inauguration of James K. Polk,
March 4, 1845
James K. Polk
(Democratic)
Zachary Taylor
(Whig)
Election of 1848 Inauguration of Zachary Taylor,
March 5, 1849
Zachary Taylor
(Whig)
Millard Fillmore
(Whig)
Death of Zachary Taylor,
July 9, 1850
Inauguration of Millard Fillmore,
July 10, 1850
Millard Fillmore
(Whig)
Franklin Pierce
(Democratic)
Election of 1852 Inauguration of Franklin Pierce,
March 4, 1853
Franklin Pierce
(Democratic)
James Buchanan
(Democratic)
Election of 1856 Inauguration of James Buchanan,
March 4, 1857
James Buchanan
(Democratic)
Abraham Lincoln
(Republican)
Election of 1860 First inauguration of Abraham Lincoln,
March 4, 1861
Abraham Lincoln
(National Union)
Andrew Johnson
(National Union)
Death of Abraham Lincoln,
April 15, 1865
Inauguration of Andrew Johnson,
April 15, 1865
Andrew Johnson
(Democratic)
Ulysses S. Grant
(Republican)
Election of 1868 First inauguration of Ulysses S. Grant,
March 4, 1869
Ulysses S. Grant
(Republican)
Rutherford B. Hayes
(Republican)
Electoral Commission ruling
March 2, 1877
Inauguration of Rutherford B. Hayes ,
March 3, 1877
Rutherford B. Hayes
(Republican)
James A. Garfield
(Republican)
Election of 1880 Inauguration of James A. Garfield,
March 4, 1881
James A. Garfield
(Republican)
Chester A. Arthur
(Republican)
Death of James A. Garfield,
September 19, 1881
Inauguration of Chester A. Arthur,
September 20, 1881
Chester A. Arthur
(Republican)
Grover Cleveland
(Democratic)
Election of 1884 First inauguration of Grover Cleveland,
March 4, 1885
Grover Cleveland
(Democratic)
Benjamin Harrison
(Republican)
Election of 1888 Inauguration of Benjamin Harrison,
March 4, 1889
Benjamin Harrison
(Republican)
Grover Cleveland
(Democratic)
Election of 1892 Second inauguration of Grover Cleveland,
March 4, 1893
Grover Cleveland
(Democratic)
William McKinley
(Republican)
Election of 1896 First inauguration of William McKinley,
March 4, 1897
William McKinley
(Republican)
Theodore Roosevelt
(Republican)
Death of William McKinley,
September 14, 1901
First inauguration of Theodore Roosevelt,
September 14, 1901
Theodore Roosevelt
(Republican)
William Howard Taft
(Republican)
Election of 1908 Inauguration of William Howard Taft,
March 4, 1909
William Howard Taft
(Republican)
Woodrow Wilson
(Democratic)
Election of 1912 First inauguration of Woodrow Wilson,
March 4, 1913
Woodrow Wilson
(Democratic)
Warren G. Harding
(Republican)
Election of 1920 Inauguration of Warren G. Harding,
March 4, 1921
Warren G. Harding
(Republican)
Calvin Coolidge
(Republican)
Death of Warren G. Harding,
August 2, 1923
First inauguration of Calvin Coolidge,
August 3, 1923
Calvin Coolidge
(Republican)
Herbert Hoover
(Republican)
Election of 1928 Inauguration of Herbert Hoover,
March 4, 1929
Herbert Hoover
(Republican)
Franklin D. Roosevelt
(Democratic)
Election of 1932 First inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt,
March 4, 1933
Franklin D. Roosevelt
(Democratic)
Harry S. Truman
(Democratic)
Death of Franklin D. Roosevelt,
April 12, 1945
First inauguration of Harry S. Truman,
April 12, 1945
Harry S. Truman
(Democratic)
Dwight D. Eisenhower
(Republican)
Election of 1952 First inauguration of Dwight D. Eisenhower,
January 20, 1953
Dwight D. Eisenhower
(Republican)
John F. Kennedy
(Democratic)
Election of 1960 Inauguration of John F. Kennedy,
January 20, 1961
John F. Kennedy
(Democratic)
Lyndon B. Johnson
(Democratic)
Death of John F. Kennedy,
November 22, 1963
First inauguration of Lyndon B. Johnson,
November 22, 1963
Lyndon B. Johnson
(Democratic)
Richard Nixon
(Republican)
Election of 1968 First inauguration of Richard Nixon,
January 20, 1969
Richard Nixon
(Republican)
Gerald Ford
(Republican)
Resignation of Richard Nixon,
August 8, 1974
Inauguration of Gerald Ford,
August 9, 1974
Gerald Ford
(Republican)
Jimmy Carter
(Democratic)
Election of 1976 Inauguration of Jimmy Carter,
January 20, 1977
Jimmy Carter
(Democratic)
Ronald Reagan
(Republican)
Election of 1980 First inauguration of Ronald Reagan,
January 20, 1981
Ronald Reagan
(Republican)
George H. W. Bush
(Republican)
Election of 1988 Inauguration of George H. W. Bush,
January 20, 1989
George H. W. Bush
(Republican)
Bill Clinton
(Democratic)
Election of 1992 First inauguration of Bill Clinton,
January 20, 1993
Bill Clinton
(Democratic)
George W. Bush
(Republican)
U.S. Supreme Court
decision in Bush v. Gore
December 12, 2000
First inauguration of George W. Bush,
January 20, 2001
George W. Bush
(Republican)
Barack Obama
(Democratic)
Election of 2008 First inauguration of Barack Obama,
January 20, 2009
Barack Obama
(Democratic)
Donald Trump
(Republican)
Election of 2016 Inauguration of Donald Trump,
January 20, 2017

See also[edit]

  • Midnight regulations, rules created by an outgoing administration before it leaves office
  • Contingent election, procedure used in U.S. presidential elections in cases where no candidate wins an absolute majority of votes in the Electoral College

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Halchin, L. Elaine (November 16, 2016). "Presidential Transitions: Issues Involving Outgoing and Incoming Administrations" (PDF). crs.gov. Congressional Research Service. Retrieved January 8, 2017. 
  2. ^ "Notable presidential transitions". Chicago Tribune. December 2, 2008. Retrieved January 10, 2017. 
  3. ^ "Presidential Transition Act of 1963". U.S. General Services Administration. March 7, 1964. Retrieved January 12, 2017. 
  4. ^ Kopan, Tal (November 3, 2016). "What is a transition? Presidential turnover explained". cnn.com. CNN. Retrieved January 8, 2017. 
  5. ^ "Ready to Govern: Improving the Presidential Transition". Partnership for Public Service. January 2010. p. 1. Retrieved January 9, 2017. 
  6. ^ Karni, Annie (August 16, 2016). "Salazar to lead Clinton's transition team". Politico. Retrieved January 9, 2017. 
  7. ^ a b "Presidential Transition Guide" (PDF). Center For Presidential Transition. January 2016. Retrieved January 8, 2017. 
  8. ^ "President Obama Delivers a Statement". youtube.com/thewhitehouse. The White House. Retrieved November 9, 2016. 
  9. ^ Gibbs, Nancy (November 10, 2008). "When New President Meets Old, It's Not Always Pretty". TIME. 
  10. ^ Rudney, Robert. "Lessons Learned from the 1932–1933 Presidential Transition". www.commondreams.org. Retrieved 2008-10-30. 
  11. ^ Pear, Robert (June 12, 2002). "White House Vandalized In Transition, G.A.O. Finds". The New York Times. 
  12. ^ Evans, Mike (June 3, 2001). "Bush aide details alleged Clinton staff vandalism". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on June 10, 2001. 
  13. ^ "Gifts Were Not Meant for Clintons, Some Donors Say". The Washington Post. February 5, 2001. Retrieved May 27, 2010. 
  14. ^ "Tripp: I was told not to record White House gifts". CNN. February 9, 2001. Retrieved May 27, 2010. 
  15. ^ [1][dead link]
  16. ^ [2]
  17. ^ Jim Puzzanghera (2009-01-20). "On White House Website, Change Is Already Evident". Courant.com. Archived from the original on 2009-01-24. Retrieved 2016-12-13. 
  18. ^ https://www.archives.gov/era/acera/presentations/bush-elec-records.ppt.
  19. ^ "45". Politico. November 9, 2016. Retrieved November 9, 2016. 
  20. ^ Scola, Nancy (November 15, 2016). "Trump transition website lifts passages from nonpartisan nonprofit". Politico. Retrieved November 15, 2016. 
  21. ^ Trump Presidential transition (November 12, 2016), "Copyright Information - Copyright Notice", Greatagain.gov, retrieved November 12, 2016, Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. Content includes all materials posted by the Trump Presidential transition. Visitors to this website agree to grant a non-exclusive, irrevocable, royalty-free license to the rest of the world for their submissions to this website under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. 
  22. ^ Thrush, Glenn; Nelson, Louis (November 11, 2016). "Pence to take over Trump's transition effort from Christie". Politico. Retrieved November 12, 2016. 

External links[edit]